The two children of a former Saudi intelligence officer, who has been lying low abroad since the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to power, “have disappeared” since their detention in March, their brother says.
The disappearance of Omar and Sarah, son and daughter of Saad al-Jabri — who has lived in exile in Canada since 2017 —showed how Saudi’s de facto ruler had used the children of his perceived enemies against them, Khalid, the siblings’ older brother told the British daily newspaper Guardian on Wednesday.
Their father was a senior aide to the deposed former crown prince, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and served as the primary Saudi liaison to Western spy agencies.
Bin Nayef, who was always regarded as the senior royal figure closest to western governments, briefly became heir to the throne but was ousted in a palace coup in 2017.
Fearing for his life, Jabri, who was abroad at the time, decided not to return home.
His children were arrested 10 days after the detention of bin Nayef and another senior prince, Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, a brother of King Salman and an uncle of bin Salman, also known as MbS.
Prior to his detention, bin Nayef had effectively been under house arrest since his ouster in the 2017 coup that brought MbS to power.
In his talks with Guardian, Khalid, now living in Canada, described the detentions of his siblings as an act of vengeance by the crown prince to force the father to return to Saudi Arabia.
He said that Sarah and Omar were among the first victims of the kingdom’s purge of royal family members over an alleged coup attempt to unseat King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and his son MBS.
Their ordeal began on the day Prince Mohammed became crown prince in 2017, said Khalid.
“A lot of people know about the September purge when he came for the intellectuals, and the Ritz Carlton, and Loujain [al-Hathloul] and the driving advocates, and Jamal Khashoggi and every other person in between. But the first purge was Omar and Sarah,” he said.
Saudi authorities had converted Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh into a gilded prison for hundreds of royals, government officials, and businessmen as part of a purge.
Kalid was referring to gruesome assassination of Khashoggi, a dissident journalist, who was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
The young Saudi prince reportedly orchestrated the gruesome assassination of Khashoggi.
Jabri, a graduate of artificial intelligence from Scotland, is believed to be very well-informed about Saudi Arabia’s top secrets, including the identities of dissidents killed by bin Salman and the place where they have been buried.
According to the British daily, al-Jabri has long had close ties to western intelligence agencies and was lauded for transforming the kingdom’s intelligence capabilities after the 9/11 attacks.
The report said the former Saudi intelligence official was in MbS’s crosshairs for various reasons, including his opposition to the prince’s decision to wage war in Yemen.
Saudi authorities have accused al-Jabri of involvement in corruption, saying he has been misusing his position to amass a personal fortune. Bin Salman wants him in the kingdom under the pretext of getting the money back.
The family staunchly denies the accusations as “politically motivated”.
“We have evidence to prove that any allegations are politically motivated. We would welcome any legal challenge. And how does any such allegation justify kidnapping two children?” Khalid said.
According to the family’s account, MbS reached out to Saad al-Jabri days before he became crown prince and sought to convince him to return, saying he was needed and would be promoted.
Al-jabri was suspicious of the offer. He stalled and said he would return in a matter of weeks. When Prince Mohammed assumed the role of crown prince days later, Khalid and his family urged Sarah and Omar to get out.